A cost-cutting plan to move Leeds’ main tourist office away from its home of 20 years at Leeds railway station is set to be debated.
Leeds Visitor Centre (LVC), which is the second busiest tourism information centre in the UK, could be relocated to the Leeds Art Gallery’s shop/ cafe at Victoria Gardens as Leeds City Council bids to save £50,000.
A report to the authority’s executive board, recommending that councillors approve the move, states it will enable it to “respond to current and predicted customer requirements” by investing in self-service technology such as iPads and touchscreens, while supporting the use of ‘pop-up’ information points at major events.
The move could take place when LVC’s lease at the soon-to-be-redeveloped station ends around November 24, when it expects its rent to be increased at the complex.
Supporters of the centre have already told the YEP that staff are “heartbroken” by the plans, which it is understood involves ongoing staff cuts.
The report, which will be discussed at Leeds Civic Hall tomorrow, said: “Co-locating within the art gallery shop/ cafe will facilitate greater flexibility in the workforce through integration and the up-skilling of staff and is likely to achieve the greatest potential saving enabling the additional savings above the budget strategy target to be reinvested in enhancing the technology.
“This will modernise and increase the reach of the service.”
It states the budget for the existing service in 2014/15 is £144,440 after the £50,000 saving target is taken into account, although “due to the commitments already in place” it admits reaching that target is “unlikely”.
Other options considered by the council included moving LVC to a unit at Trinity Leeds, remaining at the station in a smaller unit or closing its face-to-face tourist information centre altogether.
The authority has considered national research that suggests trends are seeing face-to-face visitor contact reduce in favour of more digital access to services.
Last week a source told the YEP that moving the centre would be counterproductive at a time when the city hopes to capitalise on a post-Grand Depart tourism boom.
The source said: “It said in the original review that they wanted to increase footfall, but how many people go in the art gallery?”
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “Leeds is a vibrant, dynamic city with a wealth of attractions and we want to ensure that we have the right services in place to help visitors, as well as residents, enjoy all that our world class city has to offer.”
LVC has served more than 8million people since its move to the train station in 1995.